The home city of the United States Soccer Federation, the nation’s third largest city, the city that recently bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, the city that played host to the opening game in the 1994 World Cup, a city with a storied soccer history and a richly diverse soccer culture, my sweet home Chicago, is not on the list of cities for the United States’ 2018 and 2022 World Cup bid, the Federation announced today.
Pitch Invasion has learned from multiple sources that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who led the failed Olympic Games bid and provided only limited support to attempts by the Chicago Fire to build a soccer stadium within city limits (their current home, Toyota Park, lies a couple of blocks outside city limits in the Village of Bridgeview), has done soccer in this city another disservice by putting very little behind the city’s proposal to host World Cup games. The city’s proposal, I’m told, was extremely weak.
There can be little doubt that the US Soccer Federation would have wanted Chicago to be part of the bid, as almost everyone expected to be a matter of course. And Daley was on the Chicago Host Committee for the 1994 World Cup, a successful event for the city used in Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid effort. Perhaps Daley is still too bitter about that dismally failed bid to have gotten behind the United States’ bid for the other major global sporting event, the World Cup. We contacted the Mayor’s Office for comment, but have not received a reply at the time of writing.
This is, though, a big blow to the World Cup bid as well as to the city’s soccer community, especially as the City of Chicago owns an elite stadium that has hosted numerous international games. The 62,000 capacity Soldier Field, reopened in 2003 after major renovation, is a wonderful venue for soccer, hosting the CONCACAF Gold Cup in recent years, including the final in 2007. That was a game I attended, and on a beautiful summer day by Chicago’s wonderful lakefront, Chicago’s massive soccer community — especially from the one million strong Hispanic community — turned out to fill the stadium with energy and passion. Sadly, we will not see this here in Chicago in 2018 or 2022 if the U.S. wins the right to host the World Cup.
It’s a shame for Chicago that the city did not put enough effort behind the support of a sport that means so much to so many here.